John B.


Lawrence E. Laubscher, Jr.


Ian D. Titley

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John Farmer's Column  

John wears two hats – columnist and lawyer. He writes a monthly column, Leading-Edge Law, for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on breaking legal issues in the e-commerce, intellectual property and high-tech fields. He’s been writing columns since 1998.
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For Businesses, .Sucks Sucks

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Should your business buy the “.sucks” domain name version of its company or key product name to keep it away from gripers? If you do, expect to pay almost $2500 a year. The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, has called this pricing “legalized extortion.” Even so, companies such as Goodyear, Read the full article…

Will the Trademark HAVOC still live at VCU?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

By now, you probably heard of the potential dispute between VCU and the University of Texas over the HAVOC trademark. How will it get resolved? My guess is Texas will agree to not use the trademarks HORNS HAVOC and HOUSE OF HAVOC. On April 20, I spoke to Pamela D. Lepley, who is vice president Read the full article…

Do Opportunists Actually Cash In When Applying to Register Suddenly Popular Phrases as Trademarks?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

It’s as inevitable as the sunrise. Tragedy strikes and a popular phrase is born. Or a sports star explodes on the scene and earns a catchy nickname. Then a bunch of opportunists run to the federal Trademark Office to try to cash in by applying to register that name or phrase as a trademark. For Read the full article…

Avoid Committing Twibel When Tweeting and Retweeting

Monday, February 16th, 2015

When you tweet, do you commit twibel? And if you retweet someone else’s twibel, are you on the hook too? “Twibel” is Internet slang for committing libel on Twitter ˗ writing something factually false about some other person or organization that damages that person’s or organization’s reputation. Engaging in twibel can be costly. Singer and Read the full article…

First Amendment Protection for Offensive Trademarks Could Arise in 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

2015 could be the year in which courts give greater First Amendment protection for the registration and use of offensive trademarks. The Redskins Trademark Case Last year, the federal Trademark Office decided the trademark registrations owned by the Redskins football team that contain the word “Redskins” should be revoked because, it determined, that name was Read the full article…

Should You Use Fingerprint Unlock on Your New Phone?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Should you activate the fingerprint unlock feature on you new iPhone 6? That might depend on how much you fear the government. Regardless of whether you do so, be aware of your rights regarding whether the police may search your cell phone. Let’s start with a few recent court decisions. In June, the Supreme Court Read the full article…

Is Software Patenting Dead?

Monday, December 1st, 2014

It appears computer software patents died last June. If so, there will be rejoicing by the many businesses plagued by patent trolls. Last June, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that you cannot get a valid patent on conducting a business process on a generic computer. In other words, you cannot take a business Read the full article…

Virginia’s Anti-Patent Troll Statute Got the Shad Treatment

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Virginia’s new anti-patent troll law got the shad treatment on its way to enactment. When I was in law school in the 80’s, I took a class on legislative drafting taught by a Virginia state senator and a politically connected law professor. That’s where I learned about the “shad treatment.” My teachers explained that the Read the full article…

The Redskins Fight On In Federal Court For Its Trademark Registrations

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

The Redskins recently suffered a major loss that won’t cause the team to fold but still hurts its prospects. Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s dislocated left ankle? Well, that too, but I’m talking about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoking several of the team’s registrations for its REDSKINS trademark, holding that the trademark is disparaging Read the full article…

Survey: Half of U.S. Trademark Registrations Are at Least Partially Illegitimate

Friday, August 1st, 2014

A recent survey revealed that about half of all federal trademark registrations are at least partially illegitimate. This illegitimacy blocks businesses from being able to obtain trademark registrations they want and discourages businesses from selecting new trademarks they prefer. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) just released the results of a survey it conducted Read the full article…